Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Tanksley, Francesca (Franzeska Esther)
Tanksley, Francesca (Franzeska Esther), piano and composer; b. Vicenza, Italy, 21 November 1957. Her father Jewel Richard Tanksley (born 1928 died 1988) was stationed in the US military in Vicenza, Italy. Her mother, Lydia (Pauline Strassmayr) Tanksley, (born 1929 died 1968), was Austrian. She grew up from age of 3 months, in Munich, Germany, where father worked for Radio Free Europe. Her siblings are Clifford (Edmund) Tanksley (born 1954), and Josephine (Ellen Tanksley) Lewis (born 1951). Her half-siblings are Jennifer Tanksley (born 1973) and Michael Tanksley (born 1975).
She began studying piano at the age of seven (with Helene Weber), and at sixteen she attended Berklee College of Music in Boston to study jazz piano and composition (with Dean Earl and Ray Santisi). Following her studies at Berklee she returned to Munich and began her professional career performing with various European jazz groups. She then moved to New York City and joined Melba Liston's group, Melba Liston & Co., appearing at major jazz clubs and festivals in the U.S., including the Kool Jazz Festival at Carnegie Hall with Dizzy Gillespie. Soon thereafter she became an integral member of the Billy Harper Quintet, as well as the Erica Lindsay Quintet.
Tanksley holds a Master's Degree in Music from Queens College, where she did graduate jazz piano studies with Sir Roland Hanna, and composition studies with Jimmy Heath. She did post-graduate classical piano studies with Harry Jensen in New Paltz, New York. She has conducted jazz workshops at numerous colleges, including the University of Southern California at Santa Cruz, Hampton University, Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute, and Bard College. Ms. Tanksley serves as faculty at New School University's Jazz and Contemporary Music Program in New York City. Queens College graduate jazz piano studies with Sir Roland Hanna, composition with Jimmy Heath.
Accompanist with such notable groups as the Billy Harper Quintet and the Erica Lindsay Quintet, she has performed throughout Europe, East and Southeast Asia, Scandinavia and South America as well as in the United States, and appears on numerous CD releases of both groups. Other leading musicians with whom Francesca Tanksley has performed include Howard Johnson, Cecil Payne, David Newman, Nick Brignola, Slide Hampton, Pat LaBarbera, Sheila Jordan, Jay Clayton, Clifford Jordan, Charles Davis, Pete Yellin, and tap-dancers Brenda Buffalino and Katherine Kramer. She has been a featured artist on Marian McPartland's National Public Radio series, Piano Jazz, and appears in the documentary, Women In Jazz by Burrill Crohn. Tanksley also leads the Francesca Tanksley Trio.
Charly Antolini: Special Delivery (1979); Robin Eubanks Steve Turre: Dedication (1989); Erica Lindsay Quartet: Dreamer (1989);
Billy Harper Quintet: Destiny Is Yours (1990), Live On Tour In The Far East, Volumes I, II, and III (1992, 1993), Somalia (1994); Blue Jade Trio: Night Songs (1995);
Billy Harper Quintet: If Our Hearts Could Only See (1997), Soul Of An Angel (2000)
Radio and television broadcasts:
Numerous radio interviews across the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia;
With the Francesca Tanksley Trio live radio performances on Performance Place, WAMC-FM (Albany, NY; 2002, 2003)
With the Erica Lindsay Quartet, 1986-2002 private recordings of performances done at various New York venues
Works about Tanksley or Citing Her Extensively (omitting numerous reviews of her work):
Tanksley is noted in the books, American Women In Jazz by Sally Plaxin, and in Madam Jazz by Leslie Gourse.
"Journey Woman", Woodstock Times, August 15, 2002
"Faculty Profile: On A Journey With Francesca Tanksley," Jazz & Contemporary Music Program Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2002
"Francesca And The Force," by Joe Giardullo, Woodstock Times, July 3, 1991
"Take Off Again from the Roots of the Music: An Interview with Billy Harper and Francesca Tanksley" Music and Musicians Monthly, Fu Ching-tang, (Taiwan), May 1991
She is the recipient of the Graduating Master's Award, the Eubie Blake Scholarship Award and the ASCAP Louis Armstrong Composer's Scholarship Award.